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Himalayan Salt Lamps: Benefits and Myths

Health + Wellness
Belchonock / iStock / Getty Images

By Helen West, RD (UK)

Himalayan salt lamps are decorative lights you can buy for your home.


They are carved out of pink Himalayan salt and believed to have various health benefits.

In fact, advocates of salt lamps claim they can clean the air in your home, soothe allergies, boost your mood and help you sleep.

However, others question whether these claims have any merit.

This article explores the evidence on Himalayan salt lamps and sorts fact from fiction.

What Are Himalayan Salt Lamps and Why Do People Use Them?

Himalayan salt lamps are made by placing a light bulb inside large chunks of pink Himalayan salt.

They have a distinctive look and emit a warming, pink glow when lit.

True Himalayan salt lamps are made from salt harvested from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan.

Salt sourced from this area is believed to be millions of years old, and although it's very similar to table salt, the small amounts of minerals it contains give it a pink color.

Many people choose to buy Himalayan salt lamps simply because they like the way they look and enjoy the ambiance the pink light creates in their homes. Meanwhile, others find their supposed health benefits alluring.

Summary

Himalayan salt lamps are carved from the mineral-rich, pink salt mined from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. Some people buy them to decorate their home, while others believe they provide health benefits.

How Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Work?

Salt lamps are said to provide health benefits because they are "natural ionizers," meaning they change the electrical charge of the circulating air.

Ions are compounds that carry a charge because they have an unbalanced number of protons or electrons.

They are produced naturally in the air when alterations occur in the atmosphere. For example, waterfalls, waves, storms, natural radioactivity and heat all produce air ions (1).

They can also be created artificially by commercially produced air ionizers.

It's suggested that Himalayan salt lamps may produce ions by attracting water particles that evaporate off as a salt solution when heated by the lamp, forming mostly negative ions (2).

However, this theory has not yet been tested.

Currently, it's unclear whether salt lamps produce ions in meaningful amounts, if at all.

Summary

Himalayan salt lamps are said to change the charge of the surrounding air by producing ions that have health benefits. However, it is not currently clear whether they can produce any or enough ions to affect your health.

What Are The Health Claims and Do They Stack Up?

There are three main health claims made about Himalayan salt lamps.

1. They Improve Air Quality

Salt lamps are often claimed to improve the air quality of your home.

More specifically, they are advertised as being beneficial for people with allergies, asthma or diseases that affect respiratory function, such as cystic fibrosis.

However, there is currently no evidence that using a Himalayan salt lamp can remove potential pathogens and improve the air quality of your home.

The claim that they are good for people with respiratory conditions may be partly based on the ancient practice of halotherapy.

In this therapy, people with chronic respiratory conditions are said to benefit from spending time in salt caves due to the presence of salt in the air.

Yet, there is little support for this practice, and it's not clear whether it is safe or effective for people with respiratory conditions (3).

Furthermore, tests on air ionizers, which emit high levels of negative ions, haven't yet been shown to benefit people with asthma or improve respiratory function (4, 5, 6).

2. They Can Boost Your Mood

Another frequently made claim is that Himalayan salt lamps can boost your mood.

Some animal studies have shown that exposure to high levels of negative ions in the air may improve levels of serotonin, a chemical involved in mood regulation (1).

Yet, human studies investigating claims regarding the psychological effects of air ionization found no consistent effects on mood or feelings of well-being (7).

However, researchers did find that people with depressive symptoms who were exposed to very high levels of negative ions reported improvements in their mood.

Nevertheless, the link they found wasn't dose-related, meaning that people's mood improvements couldn't be explained by the dose they received. Thus, researchers questioned whether the link was causal.

Additionally, it's very unlikely that salt lamps could expose you to the high number of negative ions used in these studies.

3. They Can Help You Sleep

Studies have not yet examined the effects of Himalayan salt lamps on sleep.

However, a review of the effects of air ionization on relaxation and sleep didn't find any evidence of a beneficial effect (7).

Thus, even if salt lamps do affect the air environment, it's not clear if this would have an effect on sleep patterns.

It's possible that using the dim light from a Himalayan salt lamp may help promote sleepiness toward the end of the day if you use it to replace bright electric lights.

This is because bright light before bed can delay production of the sleep hormone melatonin (8, 9).

However, this isn't specific to salt lamps, and the theory hasn't been tested.

Summary

Himalayan salt lamps are claimed to improve air quality, boost mood and help you sleep. However, there is currently little evidence to support these claims.

Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Have Any Benefits?

Although some of their health claims are not supported by science, Himalayan salt lamps may have other benefits.

These include:

  • They are attractive: If you like the way they look, they could be an attractive addition to your home.
  • They create a nice ambiance: They could help create a relaxing atmosphere that helps you unwind.
  • They might help limit light in the evening: If you struggle to sleep, using dim lights in the evening may help you get to sleep faster.

Overall, these points may make them a great addition to your home.

Summary

Himalayan salt lamps are inviting, create a warm and relaxing ambiance and may help you wind down before bedtime.

The Bottom Line

There is no evidence behind the health claims related to Himalayan salt lamps.

While they may be an attractive addition to a room and help create a relaxing environment, there's little to suggest they do much else.

More research on the theories surrounding their potential health benefits is needed.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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